Environmental Protection Agency Tries to Clarify Clean Water Act Protections

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) attempted to clarify Clean Water Act protections on September 17 for small streams and wetlands. Previously these protections had been thrown into question by Supreme Court decisions.

The rule –proposed by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers—would help farmers and others understand where the Clean Water Act applies and where it does not. This is particularly important with regards to small waterways and streams that may dry up during some seasons.  The report released by the EPA was a synthesized result of 1,000 scientific studies done on the effects of streams on waterways.  The findings show that the effect of streams on waterways is important regardless of the size of those waterways or whether they dry up during certain seasons.

The EPA’s blog states, “The proposed joint rule will provide greater consistency, certainty, and predictability nationwide by providing clarity for determining where the Clean Water Act applies and where it does not.”

Some politicians are upset with the EPA’s push for more clarity on the Clean Water Act. Senator David Vitter (R-La.) released a statement claiming, “EPA’s announcement today doesn’t solve anything, but merely takes another road to potentially expand its own jurisdiction through the Clean Water Act.”

The biggest reason that the EPA wanted and needed to clarify the Clean Water Act protections is because of different rulings that have been made since 1972 when the law was passed. CWA protects all waters with a “significant nexus” to “navigable waters” yet the phrase “significant nexus” has been open to interpretation.

The EPA report has determined that even small streams can play a huge part in keeping the bigger water ways clean and flowing.  This directly conflicts with 2006 decision in Rapanos v. United States where the Supreme Court held that the term “includes only those relatively permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water ‘forming geographic features’ that are described in ordinary parlance as ‘streams, oceans, rivers, [and] lakes.”

The science of water connectivity will help strengthen the EPA’s arguments on which waterways have a “significant nexus.” Some politicians think the new rule clarification and proposal is just a Trojan horse for the EPA to gain broader authority.

House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) believes that the regulatory approach is “allowing the EPA to regulate virtually every mud puddle in America.”




Linda St.Cyr is a writer, blogger, activist, and short story author. She writes about news, sustainability, green energy, food, celebrities and much more. Often she is busy being vocal about feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and shedding a light on human rights violations all over the world.



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